Old-school videogames often had a cheat code–a special sequence of actions that, when entered, would make your game avatar invincible. Cheat codes weren’t particularly sporting, but they made it much easier to win a game.
Donald Trump has found a cheat code for our current national politics, and he seems content to use it every week.
Here’s the cheat code:
Donald Trump has targeted a specific group of voters who resent and distrust the mainstream media. This means that when that media criticizes him, those voters loyalty to him increases.
The reason this is a cheat code is that while it is very hard to get good publicity, it is trivially easy to get bad publicity. All it takes is a single threatening tweet to spark several days of critical covfefe–er, coverage.
When Donald Trump threatens North Korea or Iran, or seems to offer sympathy to white supremacists, he sparks a wave of (justified) criticism that just seems to make him more popular with his base.
The side effect is horrendous geopolitical risk, but that doesn’t seem to deter Donald Trump one iota.
I believe that the best way to invalidate this cheat code is to focus the criticism of Donald Trump on concrete, pocketbook issues that directly affect his supporters. It is easy for them to support Donald Trump when his actions harm others, or cause harm in the future. It will be harder for them to support him when, say, his trade war with China causes massive layoffs in their town.
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